I’ve been in a terrible funk since Nov. 8. It isn’t all the election’s fault, but it sure did feel like it. Every time I looked at my phone, all I saw was despair, desperation, anger, and desolation from my left-leaning friends. It was and is leading to some terrible decision making and a breaking down of the standards many have used to judge the right. Then there was this weird, aggressive anger from some folks whose man had won.
One day, after pondering a conversation I’d had with someone who was a presidential appointee a couple of past lives ago, I updated my Facebook status saying something along the lines of “this transitionary period needs to be a time when we (mostly speaking of myself) should listen to those who have more knowledge, experience, and intelligence than we (I) do as we try to make sense of the world and our positions within it.” A Trump-supporting Facebook friend saw this as an opportunity to go on an aggressive attack. He kept coming back with comment after comment, suggesting that I “get over it and accept our new president,” that I was “dwelling on the negative” (for the record, I was trying to be positive, and was not jumping onto the bandwagon to block the President-elect from office). My refusal to engage with the unrelated issues the man brought up made him even angrier. He told me I was full of bullshit when I explained my view of my job being to write my truth and analyze the world as I see and experience it. I won’t go into further detail of this weird, crazy-making argument because the rub is in that last sentence.
Basically, according to this man, my perspective is invalid because it doesn’t line up with his own, which gave him the right to accuse me of all kinds of dishonesties and mind games because I wanted to gain more perspective.
Why is this important? Because it’s not the only time it’s happened since Nov. 8, and I’m not the only person who has had something like this happen since then. Yes, I’ve been mansplained to plenty of times in my life — sometimes several times in a week — but this is a different kind of dismissal, and I don’t think it’s about what everyone says it is. The spike in hate crimes the country has seen in the last few weeks and the sudden appearance of seemingly neo-Nazi spray paint vandals that have popped up around the peninsula are frightening. These aggressions aim to discredit and dismiss the fact that there are many varieties of the human experience. They are meant to scare women, blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and other minority groups. They’re also based out of an increased fear now that the campaign of hate and fear has closed. Even though it won.
That’s the key word: I think the increase in aggression since the election is due to fear. Clark McCauley, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College and co-director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania, takes issue with the term “hate crime” because hatred is something that — scientifically— we know very little about. Generally, the intense feeling of hatred is reserved for people we know well and by whom we’ve felt betrayed or wronged, like ex-spouses, an absent parent, or even mothers-in-law. These are people with whom there was an unspoken contract of love and protection that was irrevocably broken. For this reason, McCauley believes “hate” crimes are really crimes of anger, fear, and ignorance.
I can’t definitively tell you what it is these newly out-and-proud aggressors, neo-Nazis, racists, and bigots whose “guy” won are now afraid of, but I can take a guess. These aggressors bought into an “ingroup vs. outgroup” political marketing campaign out of fear, lack of education, and a feeling of being dismissed by both traditional political parties. These aggressors tend to believe that they are the unheard (which, in some ways, is true). The dismissed rarely have an actual belief that they will be included, let alone get their way. Now their fact-eschewing, race-baiting, brown- and black-people-bashing, vagina-grabbing candidate has won, and his followers still have to live amongst all of the groups he and his campaign — and, by extension, his voters — have been alienating and abusing for the last 18-months. How frightening is that? But it gets worse.
Those who opposed the rhetoric President-elect Trump espoused have a very real fear of his cabinet making good on his promises to disenfranchise Muslims and immigrants. There’s a very real fear that stop-and-frisk — the country’s most notorious form of once-sanctioned racial profiling — will become a more widespread, horrifying reality. There’s a very real fear that women who don’t have the access or funds to walk into a traditional OB/GYN’s office to be treated for endometriosis will have one of their main sources of care ripped away. There’s a very real fear that if an 11-year-old girl who is sexually abused by a family member becomes pregnant, she’ll be forced to relive the moment she was impregnated every day for 40 weeks, or that an adult mother whose infant died in utero will be forced to risk her life and the welfare of her family because aborting her much-loved but still deceased fetus will be illegal. Out of fear and anger, people associated with these groups are also lashing out by slut-shaming the future First Lady or posting threatening memes featuring the faces of Trump and his cabinet.
I’m not here to tell you to forgive and forget. I’m here to suggest an effort to end these fear-based dismissals. We can move this terrible energy into a place where everyone can have an impact. That place is in your neighborhood. I’ve complained about the obnoxious frat parties in mine, but what keeps me here is the way the rest of my neighborhood gives me hope during these confusing times.
For the most part, this somewhat diverse little pocket of Charleston keeps its doors open for each other and cares for one another. The neighborhood looks and often feels like a close-knit village. I hope the U.S. will see a resurgence in neighborhoods as a welcoming, inclusive village — an inter-relational web that serves as a safe haven for our kids (and grownups) to learn, triumph, and make mistakes. A raising up of a micro-community where every household looks a bit different than the one beside it and the only line to toe is a doctrine of caring, supporting the health of the neighborhood, and appreciating a diverse mixture of ideas and traditions that in turn foster deep connections that strengthen the wider community around it.
We need our neighborhoods more than ever right now, and I feel lucky to be raising my kids in one where this concept doesn’t have to start from scratch.